The vice-president of Bulgaria’s ruling party, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, resigned from parliament on Wednesday amid a criminal investigation into his role in a property scandal.
Tsvetanov told journalists yesterday that he will give up his seat in parliament and resign as the chairman of the GERB parliamentary group, but intends to remain in his position as he party’s vice-president and head of its election committee.
Last week, Minister of Justice Tsetska Tsatcheva, Deputy Sports Minister Vanya Koleva, and Deputy Energy Minister, Krasimir Parvanov all resigned after it emerged that they too had purchased high-end apartments for well below market prices.
Tsvetanov paid 100,000 euros and swapped two apartments for one luxury flat in the Sofia development, which amounted to one quarter of the new apartment’s value.
The apartments sold to the ministers were constructed by the Artkes property company, which recently received government approval to build a 34-story office and apartment building in central Sofia.
All of the accused have denied receiving the apartments at a discounted price in return for government support for the development project.
Tsvetanov, who is widely seen as the second most powerful politician in Bulgaria after Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, said his decision to step down was not an admission of guilt, but in order to allow the investigation to take its course.
Among the issues being looked into by Bulgaria’s Anti-Corruption Commission are the origins of the funds used in the purchases, potential trading in influence, and conflict of interest in the passage of legislation.
Arteks also is being investigated for its potential links to political parties, its party donations, and its participation in public procurement.
Bulgaria consistently ranks as the most corrupt EU member state, according to the NGO Transparency International. Analysts point to high-level corruption as the main obstacle preventing Bulgaria from attracting more foreign investment and joining the EU’s Schengen free travel zone.